Everything You Need to Know Before Applying to a Nursing Program

Nursing School

If a career in nursing interests you, then you should be excited. Working to save lives and improving patient health is a fantastic job. However, have you thought about the path you will take to get there? Because you can take various paths before becoming a registered nurse (RN), it can be confusing to know where to start.

First, you can either opt for an associate degree' or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) program. An advanced level of training, i.e., a master's degree in nursing, or an MSN degree, is also available if you want to take your career even further. This article will help you understand both the BSN and MSN and what it takes to achieve either degree, including a career path and salary prospects.

MSN vs. BSN: What's the Difference

The main difference between an MSN and a BSN is that the former is more specialized than the latter in education training and job function. Ideally, you cannot obtain an MSN without a foundational or undergraduate program with a health or clinical practice focus. It takes approximately four years to achieve a BSN from a CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) accredited nursing college or by first obtaining a 2-year associate degree.

It will then take another two years to obtain a BSN when in possession of an associate degree. An MSN requires an extra two years after a BSN, and it positions registered nurses for more opportunities in the nursing field. It looks like a lot of years altogether, but the great thing is that you can acquire an MSN with a full-time or a part-time online program. Wilkes University, for example, offers a highly acclaimed master of science in nursing online degree. With such a program, you can expect to improve your clinical skills using evidence-based advanced practice. An online program like the one from Wilkes University will also allow you to schedule classes around your already busy life.

BSN vs. MSN: Different Job Types

Ideally, both a BSN and MSN program will be enough for you to practice as an RN. The BSN offers the necessary training and knowledge to work in your preferred nursing field. Usually, you can work as a clinical nurse-midwife in hospital wards and community health centers, interfacing directly with patients to administer patient care. Typical jobs for BSNs include surgical nurses, pediatric nurses, gynecological nurse, etc.

On the other hand, the roles of MSN holders offer more specialization.

During the MSN program, you will learn many advanced theories such as management of the nursing practice, informatics, etc. You can eventually go on to practice in that area. As an MSN graduate, you can opt for a career as a clinical nurse leader, nurse educator, advanced nurse practitioner, patient safety director, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, research nurse, and more.

BSN vs. MSN: Pay and Salary Potential



Overall, a registered nurse who has a bachelor’s degree earns more than those without this degree. The average salary of a BSN holder is between $42,343 and $81,768 per annum. On the other hand, an MSN student may earn between $62,281 and $195,743. The final salary, however, depends on clinical experience and location. It can also depend on clinical hours put in and the ability to negotiate.

These figures are likely to increase because the nursing field hasn’t witnessed a decline in demand in the last decade. In fact, the need for various nursing professionals keeps rising as there is a shortage of nurses in some states of the U.S. Furthermore, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics had predicted further growth of around 20% by 2022. Also, some reports show that the United States would add about half a million new RN jobs by the year 2026. Health employers are interested in growing an advanced nursing workforce that will take on more leadership roles closely related to a physician’s duties.

Graduate students of both a BSN and MSN have a rewarding career ahead. Depending on what you want for yourself, the BSN will equip you with the skills and knowledge to function in various fields of nursing. However, a Master’s degree in nursing will likely position a registered nurse in an area of specialization with more opportunities and higher pay. However, more clinical requirements, more years of full-time study, and financial commitment are necessary for this.

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